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Texas Flora and Fauna Field Guide

Field Guide to Texas

I was born right after my parents moved from Texas, and I've always been a little resentful because - no disrespect to other states, you're all great - Texas is just the best. It's the state I most want to visit, and doing this guide certainly didn't help quell that.

I always forget just how big Texas is, and in doing research for this I found out there's nine distinct ecological regions. Starting in the north there are Cross Timbers, the Rolling Plains, and High Plains. Moving further south there's Edwards Plateau in central Texas, and the South Texas Brushlands rounding out the southern-most portion of the state. Moving East there's the Coastal Prairies, West Gulf Coastal Plain, and Oaks and Prairies, and the western most part of the state is home to the Pecos and Staked Plains, and the Chihuahuan Desert. It was a struggle to get what I felt was a comprehensive snapshot of the geographical makeup in the guide, and - once again - there were far more species that I wanted to include than I had room for on the print. On to the species - 

Southern Plains Bison - There are two subspecies of American bison - the wood bison in Alaska, and the Southern Plains Bison in the continental states. You can differentiate the two by their builds - the highest point of the wood bison's back is in front of its front legs while the plains bison is directly over them, and the plains bison have a generally smaller build and less wool. Texas holds a special role in the history of the plains bison - in 1878 a Panhandle rancher, Molly Goodnight, saw the extinction of bison looming, and she began rescuing orphaned bison calves and returning them to the Goodnight Ranch. Her herd grew to over 200, some were eventually sent to replenish Yellowstone Park, and the herd has since been donated to the state. Her's is one of five foundational herds that preserved the bison from extinction in America. In 2016 President Obama declared the bison the first national mammal of the United States. 

Pecan - A species of hickory, there are over 500 species of pecans, and they're native to 152 Texas counties. 

Black-tailed Jackrabbit - Everything's bigger in Texas, so this is a good place to differentiate between hares (which jackrabbits are) and rabbits - hares are larger, born with hair, and with their eyes open. They can run and hop shortly after birth, compared with the relatively helpless newborn rabbit. I've only seen jackrabbits when I was in South Dakota, and was a little startled by their size and relative fearlessness compared to our little eastern cottontails. 

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle - Up until the mid-20th century this turtle was abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, but its numbers have decreased to the point of endangerment due to egg harvesting in the 1940s through 1960s, and in the present day getting caught in fishing and shrimp trawling equipment. Though the main nesting site is in Mexico, there has been a successful effort to create a secondary nesting site at the Padre Island National Seashore. 

That wraps things up for Texas, so in the words of #33, TEXAS FOREVER. 


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